Yamina’s Kara panned for voting down the self-employed benefits he championed

After unemployment payouts legislation falls by single vote margin, opposition heaps scorn on Kara, who headed group claiming to represent those who would have been helped by bill

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

MK Abir Kara reacts during a plenum session in the assembly  hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Abir Kara reacts during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, in Jerusalem on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Deputy Minister Abir Kara came under heavy criticism Wednesday after he voted against a bill to provide unemployment benefits for self-employed Israelis, a provision that he has championed in the past.

The bill, sponsored by opposition MK Sami Abu Shehadeh (Balad), was defeated in a Knesset vote 55-54, making Kara’s thumbs down a deciding vote.

Before entering the Knesset, Kara came to prominence as the head of a protest movement representing independent business owners and self-employed Israelis, pushing for more government help during the COVID-19 crisis.

Ahead of March elections, Kara announced that he was joining the Yamina party and bringing the group’s tens of thousands of members with him, a boost for party leader Naftali Bennett who went on to become prime minister.

As Kara’s vote was announced during a public count of MK’s voices in the plenum, the opposition erupted, pouring scorn on the lawmaker, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, with calls that he had “sold out” the independent business owners he once claimed to represent.

MK Yinon Azoulay, of Shas, shouted at Kara “the Shulmans are today looking and laughing at you, they are embarrassed by you,” a reference to the name of Kara’s “Shulman” protest movement, a slangy shorthand for suckers left with the tab.

Chair of the United Torah Judaism party, MK Yitzhak Pindrus, said after the vote that Kara “rode all the way to the Knesset on the backs of the self-employed and stabbed them in the back.”

Kara later responded to the criticism by saying the proposed bill would only have created a bureaucratic behemoth that would have been of no benefit to independent business owners, while the government has plans to provide effective support.

“We will bring a real solution for a security net, with a real choice for the Shulmans and not a bureaucratic system of clerks and taxes that the Likud proposes — because that is all that they know,” Kara wrote referring to opposition leaders in the Likud party.

LAHAV, the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses, said in a statement that “Deputy Minister Kara represents only himself and the Yamina party, and not the independent business owners in Israel. We will work with all our might so that the rights of the self-employed will be equal to those who are employed.”

Israeli self-employed small business owners participate in a rally calling for financial support from the Israeli government outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on April 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Self-Employed Forum, an umbrella group for self-employed organizations, responded to the vote with criticism of the government, saying it had “revealed its true, ugly, disconnected face by defeating the unemployed benefits bill for independents.”

By voting against the bill, Kara had “abandoned the self-employed and business in Israel,” the forum said in a statement.

Opposition parties have reportedly adopted a strategy of proposing bills for legislation that are personally supported by government members in order to embarrass them when they vote against the motions in keeping with coalition discipline.

Independent businesses and the self-employed have been hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic and are demanding that they be given government aid, pointing to extended unemployment benefits that were given to hundreds of thousands of employed Israelis who were put on unpaid leave due to lockdown measures.

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